MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: 'Me and Mickey D'

By Nick Roumel

In 2004, there was a movie called "Super Size Me." Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock set out to eat nothing but McDonald's for 30 days and document the results. He had random ground rules: he had to eat nothing except from McDonald's (even drinking their bottled water); he had to try every menu item at least once; and whenever the McDonald's employee offered, "Super Size it?" he would always say yes. He estimated he consumed about 5,000 calories per day, and gained 24 1/2 lbs. by the end of the experiment, with a host of related health problems. But he did garner an Academy Award nomination.

A few years later, an independent filmmaker named Soso Whaley responded with a You Tube production, called "Me and Mickey D," in which she had similar ground rules, but instead lost a considerable amount of weight. The major difference was that she ate far less--no more than 2,000 calories per day--and included exercise in her regimen.

From these diverse presentations, one might make the radical conclusion that it's not the source of the food, but the amount of the food and physical activity that determines weight gain or loss. Despite Spurlock's film and public concern about fast food, a whole lot of people still eat at McDonald's every day.

Which is precisely what I did recently.

It had been a while. Except for the occasional Coke or coffee on a road trip, I believe I've eaten at McDonald's twice in the last 15 years. Not that I don't enjoy the product. As a teen I contributed mightily to those "99 Billion Served," usually via Quarter Pounders with Cheese. And an Egg McMuffin is not only tasty, but surprisingly lean at 300 calories, only about 1/3 from fat.

But I had stopped going there--until I heard about their Secret Menu. A friend told me about the "10:35" sandwich. You visit at around 10:35 AM, when they are transitioning from breakfast to lunch, and they will give you a hamburger with ham, cheese, and a fried egg. I was intrigued and vowed to try to catch a Mickey D's at the appointed time.

Some disappointment set in during my pre-game research. I learned they did not actually sell such a sandwich, but that one had to order a hamburger and an Egg McMuffin separately and assemble it oneself. But I was not dissuaded, and last week found myself driving past the Golden Arches at the appointed time.

I ordered and sat down at the table, unwrapping my purchases with trembling hands. Once again, I confess, there was a bit of a letdown. Do you know how small these sandwiches are? I was reminded of Clara Peller, the former Wendy's spokesperson, asking, "Where's the beef?" But I could not abandon my quest now. I dutifully placed the tiny but symmetrical ingredients, half on the hamburger bun, the other half on the McMuffin. It was, well ... just OK. I reasoned, "What did I expect from a product that is not good enough to make McDonald's regular menu?"

While I was eating, I perused the only reading material available, a stack of "Ann Arbor Family." Ironically enough, this particular issue contained the magazine staff's New Year's resolutions, such as this one: "Healthy eating--homemade & organic (slow food)--no processed or fast food!"

But as evidenced by Soso Whaley and millions of satisfied regulars, not everyone agrees that McDonald's is bad for you. This was the painful lesson learned by a friend's now ex-wife, whose lawyer complained to a Washtenaw County judge during their divorce proceedings about my friend's allegedly lax parenting skills. The climax of the lawyer's argument was this:

"It gets worse, your honor--he takes the kids to McDonald's for breakfast!" The judge just peered down over his glasses and commented, "I happen to think McDonald's makes a pretty good breakfast."

My friend won the case, and I'm sure his kids got a few Happy Meals to celebrate.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Published: Thu, Jan 30, 2014

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